No-Fuss Roasted Potatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Potatoes are not one of my favorite things to cook or eat since they act as more of a flavor vehicle for what they are cooked in rather than having a great deal of inherent flavor on their own. Mrs. Iron Chef however loves them so I do occasionally make them, but I am constantly looking for new ways to cook them.  I came across an easy, no-fuss, one pot recipe on America’s Test Kitchen that I figured was worth a shot. Basically it calls for braising the potatoes first and then searing them, but it didn’t involve even taking them out of the pot, and only a couple of ingredients, so it really doesn’t get too much easier than this.

The Software

1 lb. Red Potatoes, roughly 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter, washed and halved

1 cup water

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons of salt

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, in 6 pieces

1 tablespoon, fresh squeezed lemon juice

 

The Recipe

Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of a skillet (don’t worry about over-crowding, it won’t matter, I used a 10 inch, straight sided skillet) so that all of the cut surfaces are in contact with the surface of the pan. Add the water (it should come up about half way on the potatoes, add more water if necessary), butter, salt and garlic to the pan. Turn burner on high and heat the skillet until the water comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover for about 15 minutes. Check if the potatoes are cooked after 15 minutes (a knife inserted should pull out easily), if they are not, cover until they are. Once the potatoes are done, remove the lid and remove the garlic to a bowl. Increase heat to medium high and continue cooking until the bottoms of the potatoes are golden brown – all of the water will evaporate leaving just the butter (this should take 10-15 minutes depending on your stove). While this is happening, mince the garlic and combine with lemon juice. Once the potatoes are done, remove from heat and toss in garlic and lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

 

Notes

I would recommend using a non-stick skillet for this process to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The recipe scales easily, just put enough potatoes to fit in the pan and add enough water to come up half way on the potatoes. You probably won’t need to add more butter unless you use something larger than a 12 inch skillet. Fresh rosemary, sage, thyme or oregano would work well with this recipe. Just mince them and add them at the end with the garlic.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I don’t generally like to bake, partially because I hate following recipes and partially because I usually end up eating too much of the finished product. However, when it comes to parties, it is nice to have something sweet on hand that can feed a large number of people easily, and brownies fit that bill very well. The better the chocolate used in these, the better the brownies will be. There are so few other ingredients that you will actually be able to taste the more subtle flavors that the chocolate will carry, so use one that you like the taste of when eating it on its own. The recipe is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

The Software

The Recipe

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make a Foil Sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Whisk cocoa and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces. (this may seem like a bunch of steps, but it comes together very quickly)
  4.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  5. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

 

Notes

This is a very easy recipe and makes a big pan of chewy, dense, intensely chocolaty brownies, just prep everything in advance. These are nice with a small sprinkle of sea salt on top, but really just work fine on their own. I like using chocolate in the 70-85% range for this (my preferred chocolate is Kallari), but the original recipe calls for 60%, so you can use that. I wouldn’t use chocolate under 60% (the brownies will be very sweet) or over 85% (never tried this, but I suspect that the chocolate chunks won’t end up melting enough). The notes from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe:

For the chewiest texture, it is important to let the brownies cool thoroughly before cutting. If your baking dish is glass, cool the brownies 10 minutes, then remove them promptly from the pan (otherwise, the superior heat retention of glass can lead to overbaking). While any high-quality chocolate can be used in this recipe, our preferred brands of bittersweet chocolate are Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV and Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. Our preferred brand of unsweetened chocolate is Scharffen Berger. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Classic Buttermilk Waffles

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I don’t normally do breakfast, but when I do, I tend to gravitate more toward pancakes and French toast. On occasion, I will get a waffle, but generally it is something I may eat once a year. On a recent trip back to the Iron Chef homeland, my mom purchased a waffle iron. Well, she needed a recipe; I knew a good one from Cooks Illustrated, so here you go:

The secret to great waffles is a thick batter, so don’t expect to pour this one. Make toaster waffles out of leftover batter—undercook the waffles a bit, cool them on a wire rack, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze. Pop them into the toaster for a quick breakfast.

The Software

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 7/8 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

The Recipe

1. Heat waffle iron. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Whisk yolk with buttermilk and butter.

2. Beat egg white until it just holds a 2-inch peak.

3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients in a thin steady stream while gently mixing with a rubber spatula; be careful not to add liquid faster than you can incorporate it. Toward end of mixing, use a folding motion to incorporate ingredients; gently fold egg white into batter.

4. Spread appropriate amount of batter onto waffle iron. Following manufacturer’s instructions, cook waffle until golden brown, 2 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately. (You can keep waffles warm on a wire rack in a 200-degree oven for up to 5 minutes.)

NOTES

That is it. Serve with syrup, butter, whipped cream, fruit, fried chicken or whatever you like.

 

Braised Pork Sugo

By Iron Chef Leftovers

One of the nice things about making pasta sauce is that it is a fairly simple process and can be used in a variety of ways. One of the things I tend to do with my tomatoes is to make a really simple sauce and freezing it so that I can use it as a base for a more robust pasta sauce later in the year. One of my favorite sauces is a sugo – a hearty sauce that I love in the cold of winter. It was part of one of my courses at a recent dinner party and it is a nice sauce to feed a crowd.

 

The Software

3 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 medium onions, finely sliced (about 2 cups)

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch lengths

3 celery stalks cut into 1 inch lengths

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes (16 oz)

1 1/4 cup chicken stock

1 ¼ cup red wine

1 teaspoon minced garlic

5 cups tomato sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced sage

1 teaspoon minced rosemary

2 teaspoons olive oil

 

The Recipe

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a dutch oven, heat one teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat until just smoking. Add 1/3 of the pork and brown on all sides (about 4 minutes per side). Remove from the pot to a plate and reduce heat to medium and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add onions and cook for 8 minutes until they start to become translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add stock, tomatoes and red wine and increase heat to medium high until liquid comes to a boil. Add the pork and cook until the liquid returns to a boil. Cover and put in the oven. Cook for about 2 hours or until the pork is fork tender. Remove from the oven. Pull the pork from the liquid and set aside to shred. Take the vegetables and add them to a blender. Strain the liquid to remove the fat and then add to the blender with the vegetables. Puree until smooth (you may need to do this in a couple of batches). Add the puree and the pork back to the pot and combine with the tomato sauce, oregano, rosemary and sage. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes, add salt and pepper as needed and serve over pasta.

 

Notes

This recipe is better if you make it a day ahead of when you want to use it. I use an even split of marsala wine and dry red wine, but just about any red wine will work in this recipe. You can adjust the amount of tomato sauce depending on how much sauce you like. If it is too thick when you serve it, add a bit of pasta water to it to loosen it up. This would also be nice with a bit of red pepper flakes added to the initial braise.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup – Iron Chef Leftovers Style

By Iron Chef Leftovers

A happy grilled cheese with some gazpacho on the side. The green in the middle of the gazpacho is some minced green zebra tomatoes.
A happy grilled cheese with some gazpacho on the side. The green in the middle of the gazpacho is some minced green zebra tomatoes.

With an overabundance of tomatoes right now, I have to get creative in what I do with them; frankly, I am a little tired of eating tomatoes right now, no matter how good they are. Being in summer, I don’t know that I really want a hot meal all of the time and during one recent stretch of hot weather, I decided it was gazpacho time, and what pairs better than a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. I figured that since I had some great tomatoes, I would take the sandwich up a few notches too. You can get the gazpacho recipe that I used here.

 

The Software

4 slices of brioche sandwich loaf, ¼ to ½ inch thick.

3 oz. of cheese of your choice

2 slices of prosciutto

 

The Recipe

In a 275 degree oven, put the brioche on a baking sheet and bake until just slightly dry (the consistency of barely toasted bread), about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven. Prepare the bread by putting ¼ of the cheese on each slice of bread. In a griddle pan large enough to hold the 4 slices of bread, cook the prosciutto until crispy on both sides over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes a side. Raise the heat to medium high and add the butter to the pan. When the butter stops foaming and beings to brown slightly, add the bread with the cheese side facing you and reduce heat to medium. When the cheese begins to melt, add the prosciutto and make a 2 sandwiches, pressing the bread together. Reduce heat to medium low and put a heavy, flat pot lid on the sandwiches. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, checking to make sure the bread is not burning, or until the cheese is completely melted. Remove from heat, cut and server immediately with the gazpacho.

 

Notes

I really like doing this with brioche as it adds a really deep flavor to the grilled cheese. I would recommend buying cheese in a block and shredding it yourself, shredding the cheese, rather than using slices, causes the cheese to melt faster. I used a combination of Manchego, Aged Cheddar, Emmenteller and Beecher’s Flagship, but you can use whatever cheese you would like.

Farfalle with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Since it is tomato season and I am currently pulling more tomatoes than I can eat, I needed to do something creative with them that allows me to highlight their sweetness without completely overpowering the flavor. I also wanted something that was easy and I could pull most of the ingredients from the garden or what I usually have on hand. Here is what I came up with:

The Software
8 oz. pasta, preferably farfalle
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/3 cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
Salt and pepper

 

The Recipe
Cook the pasta until al dente, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water when done. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the vermouth and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta and goat cheese and toss until the pasta is coated and the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are warmed through, about 3-4 minutes. If the sauce is too thick at this point, add a bit of the pasta water to thin it out (There shouldn’t be big puddles of it in the pot, you are really just creating enough sauce to coat everything). Check seasonings, remove from heat, add the basil and serve.

 

Notes
The recipe should serve 4 easily but can be easily scaled. I used Sun Gold tomatoes since that is what I had in the garden, but just about any tomato would work – just cut them small enough to be one bite. Some chives would also be a nice finish to this if you don’t have any basil and this could also work with the addition of some hot pepper flakes – just add them in when you put the vermouth in. If you don’t have vermouth, you can use any white wine that you would like.

Chicken Burgers with Apple, Sage, Rosemary and Oregano

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you are making burgers, meatloaf, sloppy joes, etc., there is something to be said for grinding your own meat. When you buy pre-ground meat, you never know exactly what it is composed of. Grinding it yourself eliminates the guesswork and makes for a better product. It is also much easier than you think it is – if you own a kitchen aid stand mixer, the grinder attachment runs about $50 and works really well. If you don’t, go to your local butcher (or even your local megamart if they have a butcher counter), buy the cut of meat that you want to grind and then ask them to do it for you. Trust me, it makes a difference.

Recently PW and her husband came over to the Iron Chef abode for dinner. I asked what protein they would like and I was told chicken burgers. I thought back to some chicken burgers I have had in the past – they were bland and dry and I wasn’t going to serve that. I then remembered back to a really good house-made chicken sausage that I had at a restaurant years’ ago and decided that would be the base for my recipe. I wanted something that was moist and flavorful but easy to make. This is what I came up with.

The key to this recipe is using freshly ground chicken thighs. You can probably use pre-ground chicken but you run the risk of the burgers drying out and will probably pay more per pound for the pre-ground meat than you will for the thighs. This recipe will make 4 good sized burgers, but can easily be scaled.

The Software
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs; ground
1 teaspoon minced sage
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon minced oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup apple, peel removed and diced into 1/8 inch pieces
½ large egg, lightly beaten

The Recipe
If grinding your own chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes and freeze for 10 minutes to firm up the meat before putting it into the grinder. Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and gently toss to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and gently form into patties (you could make sliders and probably get 8 out of this recipe). Set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (the burgers can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for 24 hour until ready to use). Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the burgers. Cook on the first side until a crust forms (about 4 minutes) and carefully flip. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 175 degrees (7-10 minutes, depending on your stove). Remove and serve to a hungry public.

Notes
The recipe can also be made on the grill. I would highly recommend starting these out on a cast iron skillet to form a bit of a crust before putting them on the grill surface – the burgers will seem loose and gravity will pull them through the grates of the grill initially. To check your seasonings, cook a very small amount of the mixture and cook it in a pre-heated skillet – it should cook in about a minute and this will tell you if you need to add anything seasoning wise. I used a Fuji apple for this, but you can use just about any apple you would like. It is important to use the apple – it helps to keep the chicken very moist. I suppose that you could use chicken breast for this, but you would run the risk of the meat drying out before it is done. I used fresh herbs when I made this dish, if you use dried, cut the amounts in half and test the seasonings – you can always add more but you can never take any away. This is a pretty mild tasting dish – if you want to ramp it up, some jalapeños or crushed red pepper would be really nice. Letting the formed patties sit in the fridge is important. If you don’t do it, they will fall apart when you cook them. You could freeze them and cook them later if you aren’t going to use the entire batch.

Skillet Fried Potatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

This type of steamer basket works best. You can get them at Amazon.com for about $8.
This type of steamer basket works best. You can get them at Amazon.com for about $8.

I do entirely too much reading of cookbooks. These days, I am not really looking for recipe ideas, more just to learn techniques. One thing that I hate to cook, but Mrs. Iron Chef loves to eat are potatoes. For me, they really are just a vehicle for adding stuff to it, much like chicken breast, so you go from healthy to unhealthy in a hurry since potatoes don’t inherently have much taste. For my End of the World meal, I was making beef stew served in a can, which I thought about it, and what goes better with beef stew than potatoes (well, celery root puree, sun choke puree…just humor me here). I took a hybrid technique from Modernist Cuisine and Cook’s Illustrated to come up with this recipe. This really isn’t much more difficult to do than making regular potatoes, but you will get better texture on them and you can actually do stage one in advance and finish them when you are ready to serve. When you are done, you should end up with potatoes that are creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The only special equipment you really need is a steamer basket.

The Software
1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons fat (bacon fat, duck fat, butter or olive oil all work well. See note below)
Salt and pepper

The Recipe

Stage 1 – Fill a large pot with water to just below the surface of the steamer basket. Heat water over high heat until steam is visible. Add the potatoes to the basket in a single layer. Cover the pot and steam for 13 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness – you are aiming for them to be slightly al dente and they should have leached their starch to the surface, so they will feel tacky. Remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels and dry. It is important that the potatoes are dry before starting stage 2.

Stage 2 – Heat a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (don’t use non-stick here). Add the fat and heat over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Test the heat of the fat by dipping the edge of one potato slice in the fat. If it sizzles immediately, the fat is hot enough and you can add the potatoes in a single layer. If they all won’t fit in the skillet, you can do stage 2 in multiple batches. If the fat is not hot enough, continue heating it until you can get your test to sizzle. You are really just browning/reheating the potatoes and looking to get a golden crust on each side, so you probably won’t need more than about 2 minutes of cooking time on each side, checking after 1 minute to see the progress. After both sides are browned, remove to a cooking rack or a plate with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away. It pairs nicely with this Beef Carbonnade recipe.

Your end result should look something like this. You can also get really classy and serve it in a can, like I did.
Your end result should look something like this. You can also get really classy and serve it in a can, like I did.

Notes
You really want the potatoes dry before putting them in the fat since hot fat + water = bad news. Your cooking time will really depend on what type of fat you use. Animal fats (butter, bacon fat, duck fat) have a lower smoke point than vegetable fats (olive oil, vegetable oil), so they will reach that stage quicker and take longer to brown the potatoes, which is why you really want to check them after about the first minute. You can actually skip stage 2 if you want and just serve the potatoes steamed. Just increase the cooking time to about 16 minutes in the steamer. This dish would also benefit from the addition of some fresh rosemary, sage or thyme.

Toasted Quinoa Hash

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Too bad the Mayans hadn’t actually invented this dish, they might be remembered for something other than they amazing grasp of astronomy and a faulty calendar.

I like quinoa – it is nutty, easy to cook and really healthy for you since it is a whole grain and does not contain gluten. It is also one of the oldest cultivated agricultural products on the planet. I recently served a quinoa hash as a side dish for my End of the World meal. If you need a hearty side dish or something that can be expanded to a meal and cooked in really short time, this is one for you. I got the idea from this recipe from both Modernist Cuisine at Home and Cooks Illustrated, but the recipe is pretty much my version.

The Software
½ cup red (or any type) quinoa
2 teaspoons olive oil
¾ cup stock (chicken of veggie) or water
½ can black beans (preferably low or no sodium)
2 oz. queso fresco

The Recipe
Rinse the quinoa and drain. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the quinoa and toss to coat with the oil. Sautee the quinoa for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant. If it starts to brown deeply, lower the heat to medium. Add stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until the quinoa begins to unfurl, about 15 minutes. Drain the beans and fluff the quinoa with a fork when it is finished. Add the beans to the quinoa, taste (add salt as necessary) and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Plate and sprinkle queso fresco on top. A sprinkle of chopped cilantro would also be nice.

Notes
The quinoa can be made in advanced and reheated with the beans prior to serving. This serves as a nice base for chicken, fish, veggies, or pretty much anything that you would want to put with it. Make sure you rinse the quinoa first and drain most of the water before putting it in the oil. Rinsing it removes a naturally occurring chemical on the grain that produces bitter flavors if you make it without washing it first. Quinoa can be found at most supermarkets either in the bulk food section, the rice isle, organic section or the ethnic foods section.

Enchilada Sauce – Another Use for Green Tomatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you have green tomatoes, one of the best things to use them for is enchiladas. You can easily use the tomatoes to replace tomatillos in the sauce and get something that tastes about 100 times better than anything that will come out of a can.

The Software
3 lbs. green tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces, woody parts removed
¼ cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds removed
2 cups stock or water
Salt

The Recipe
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until they begin to become translucent. Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes, pepper and liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are tender. In several batches, take the contents of the pot and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the sauce begins to boil, continue to cook until it thickens (5-10 minutes), stirring about every minute. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, add salt to taste and it is ready to use.

Notes
You can pretty much put this over anything – pasta, chicken, pork, veggies or enchiladas. If you like it hotter, add more peppers, or better yet, add some serrano peppers. If you like it less spicy, remove the pepper or reduce the amount. If you want a super kicked up version of this sauce, when you add the garlic, add 1 ½ teaspoons of the following: cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, adobo, garlic powder and black pepper. Follow the recipe as is otherwise.